Too often, in all the excitement over a church’s purchase of a new building or land, one important issue is overlooked: land use and zoning. If you can’t use the land or building that you just purchased… what happens next?
If you and your church find yourself in the unfortunate situation of not being able to use a recently purchased land parcel or a building, you do have options. Litigation is one of them, but filing suit is only advisable after a number of other possible remedies have been exhausted. Prepared by experienced church land use attorneys, the church land use guide available for download here discusses the steps involved in the land use process and the tools available to help you win approval to use your property.
Litigation pursuant to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and the First Amendment is one option for a church in the midst of a religious land use case. While the First Amendment dates to the founding days of the United States, RLUIPA is a much more recent federal law that can serve as an effective tool in protecting the property interests of religious organizations.
While this paper will not answer all of your questions and should not be interpreted as providing legal advice, we hope you find it helpful as your church embarks on this journey.